Check-ins on the NHS Covid app plummet across Manchester

Use of the technology fell in August even as infections and venue alerts were rising.

The use of the NHS Covid app to check-in at venues has plummeted across Greater Manchester since restrictions were eased.

NHS data analysed by our sister title National World showed there was a massive reduction in use of the technology the week after the so-called “Freedom Day” on 19 July.

However, use of the app continued to dwindle in the city-region throughout August, even when Covid infections and venue alerts were rising.

The Government has said it is strongly encouraging venues to continue using the technology to help keep the hospitality sector open and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

What do the Manchester figures show?

The statistics show that across Greater Manchester as a whole there has been a 94.2% reduction in the use of the app since the week ending 21 July.

The drop was not just a one-off when people stopped using it in mid-July when it was no longer mandatory to check in when going into a venue.

In August alone there was a reduction of just over two-thirds (68.7%) in the use of the NHS Covid app.

In Manchester city centre the drop was stark and immediate, with uses of the app going from 67,351 the week ending 21 July to 15,100 for the following week.

There are lots of hospitality jobs up for grabs. There are lots of hospitality jobs up for grabs.
There are lots of hospitality jobs up for grabs.

And the city has seen the biggest reduction in app use out of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs in percentage terms too since mid-July, with a 95.5% fall.

In August alone the biggest percentage decrease in app use was in Oldham, with a fall of 71.9 per cent.

In every one of the 10 boroughs the reduction in use of the app since the week ending 21 July has been by more than 90 per cent.

And the figures for August alone show a decline of two-thirds (66.7%) in the city-region borough with the smallest fall.

Is this the same as the national picture?

The Greater Manchester figures mirror the national trend on this.

Our sister title National World found the number of NHS app check-ins rapidly declined following the lifting of restrictions across the country, from 6.8 million in the week ending 21 July to 2.4 million the next week.

Analysis of NHS data shows the number of people using the QR code scanning feature has continued to drop sharply.

In the week ending 1 September, just 644,502 people checked into a venue. That was down by 125,000, or 16%, on the week before, and by 1.1 million, or 64%, on the week ending 4 August.

How does this compare to Covid infections and venue alerts?

There is no local data on venue alerts but national figures show that in the first two weeks of August, while use of the QR code scanning was continuing to fall, the app was sending out alerts about increasing numbers of venues.

Messages warning that a staff member or customer had tested positive went out about 757 venues in the week ending 4 August.

This then rose to 1,432 in the week ending 18 August.

Though the number of alerts declined somewhat in the last couple of weeks of August, the figure of 1,139 alerts for the week ending 1 September is still around 50% higher than the figure from the start of the previous month.

The NHS app  Credit: GettyThe NHS app  Credit: Getty
The NHS app Credit: Getty

This four-week period during August was also a time of rising Covid infection across England and Wales.

Between 4 August and 1 September, the seven day average of positive cases rose by 38%, from 187,959 to 268,799.

What has been said about this?

Government guidance says that while it is no longer a legal requirement, businesses such as pubs, restaurants, bars and nightclubs in England should continue to ask customers to check-in.

Venues may also store customer details manually, without asking them to check in with the NHS app.

A Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson told National World the NHS app is a “key tool” in the pandemic response, and had prevented up to 2,000 Covid cases per day in July, broken chains of transmission, and saved thousands of lives.

“Venues are no longer legally required to ask customers and visitors to check in, however venues are strongly encouraged to do so to help stop the spread of the virus, protect society and support businesses to stay open,” they said.

“The more people check in, either by using the NHS app or by providing their contact details, the better protected we all are, as people can be alerted if they are at risk.”

An upcoming report for The Lancet medical journal, seen by the i newspaper, is also set to warn that the NHS could be at “breaking point” by November if the Government does not reintroduce measures such as mask wearing and social distancing.